Hamilton took a deep breath as he crossed the threshold. There were butterflies in his stomach for reasons he couldn’t quite explain.
He wasn’t sure why Pride wanted to meet. The NCIS agent hated his guts, detested him with a passion. That was no secret. So it wasn’t a surprise that Hamilton was confused. What did the man want from him?
Shoes thumping against the wood, Hamilton looked around. The restaurant was empty, chairs still up on tables. Smoothing out his jacket, he blinked.
“Mr. Mayor.” Pride was sitting in a corner, empty shot glass in his hands. An unconscious grin appeared on Hamilton’s face, a chuckle escaping him.
“Oh dear.” He allowed himself to laugh. “What’d I do now?” Pride stood up, setting the glass down on the piano. There was no alcohol in his system, just some sparkling water.
“Paranoid about something?”
“You called, urgently needed a meet. Not at City Hall.” Hamilton straightened his coat again, the butterflies growing more intense. An uneasy expression appeared on Pride’s face.
“I need your help with something.”
“Really?” Hamilton grinned. “Never thought I’d hear those words come out of your mouth, Dwayne.”
“Going after Javier Garcia,” Pride continued, ignoring his comment.
“Not sure how I can really help since I don’t know the man.”
“Yet you let him into your box at the racetrack.” Hamilton shrugged; okay, that was accurate.
“Semantics. What do you want?” Pride stepped closer, choosing his next words carefully.
“Garcia’s been making move in New Orleans, moves that couldn’t have happened without your help.”
“People ask me for favors, I do what I can. That’s my job.” A devious grin appeared on Pride’s face.
“And if we put you under FBI scrutiny, how would that go?” Hamilton rolled his eyes; he hadn’t expected a friendlier comment.
“Blackmailing a sitting mayor, you must really want to bring this guy down.” Pride nodded, his face all business.
“More than anything.” Hamilton considered what he was saying, the implications of it all. The butterflies in his stomach knawed at him, knowing what his heart wanted. The one thing he had a chance to get.
“Okay.” Pride’s eyes widened in shock.
“Really? Just like that?”
“Well…” Hamilton’s hands fell into his pockets. “On one condition.” Pride exhaled through his teeth, not willing to hear the mayor’s crazy ideas.
“What is it?” Hamilton stared at the ground, swallowing. He knew once he spoke, it could never be taken back.
“I want you to kiss me.” Pride’s eyes widened larger than he’d ever seen. Backing away, he shook, trying to take it in. Hamilton watched through the corner of his vision, not willing to look him in the eye.
“Why? So you can bury me?”
“No.” His voice cracked, which didn’t help matters anyway. “You’ve got to understand, this isn’t political, Dwayne.”
“What is it, then?”
“It’s personal.” Hamilton finally looked up, terrified. “Look, I know it’s a lot to ask...but it’s all I want. One...measly...kiss.” Pride’s hands curled into fists. He shook his head.
“No one will know?”
“No one will know.”
Pride slowly crossed the floor, stopping just in front of Hamilton. They both looked very uneasy about the situation. The mayor swallowed.
“I swear to God, it won’t leave this room.” It didn’t need repeating.
“I’d prefer it if you closed the gap.” Hamilton nodded, inching closer and closer toward him. Shutting his eyes, he opened his mouth as their noses touched.
Pride felt strange; rough, yet something Hamilton had known his whole life. The agent closed his eyes as the kiss deepened. There was no noise in the bar, no sound from the world outside.
Hamilton reached up, touching Pride’s face. His brain swirled in disbelief. It was all just a dream...any moment now, he would wake up.
After a few seconds more, Pride started to recede. Hamilton pushed, grasping the last of him as he pulled away. When they were separate again, he gasped. Nothing felt real.
“I’m sorry…” The mayor began to shake. Pride backed away, leaning against the bar in a moment of calm. Hamilton stared at nothing, tears forming in his eyes. “I am so, so sorry, Dwayne.”
“You know…” Pride looked up, a smile appearing on his face. “I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you say that.”
“Crazy world we’re living in, huh?” Hamilton took a deep breath.
“How long have you…” Pride trailed off, not sure how to finish the question. Hamilton shrugged.
“I don’t know. And it hasn’t happened with anyone else. Just you for some damn reason.” Nodding, the agent pushed himself off the bar.
“When this is over, we need to talk.” Hamilton nodded, his heart falling a million stories.
“I know, Dwayne. I know.”